When we discover something that improves our lives it’s natural to want to share that knowledge with others – especially our friends. Whether it’s a new way of eating, a new found love of yoga or the benefits of mindfulness, we may feel desperate to tell our friends and family how they too could feel better if they were to try it.
However, as we have all probably been on the receiving end of such recommendations, we know that, while intentions may be good, it’s all too easy for these suggestions to come across as pushy or overzealous. People, in their eagerness to help, may end up forcing ideas on others that are not always helpful. As mindfulness practitioners, we are not immune from sometimes becoming a little fanatical too. So how can we share the benefits of this great practice, without losing sight of what we’re trying to promote?
It’s useful to develop some awareness of the kinds of situations that prompt us to suggest mindfulness to others. For example, when a friend tells us that they are feeling depressed, is our first thought to tell them to try mindfulness? If someone tells us that they’ve been feeling stressed at work, do we jump in and start telling them how much mindfulness has helped us with that problem?
We may find that we sometimes make such suggestions in a bid to ‘fix’ the other person’s problems, instead of engaging in some mindfulness of our own. Sometimes a friend may simply want someone to listen to their struggles for a while, and rather than telling them to sign up for a mindfulness workshop, we could use this time to practice our mindful listening skills. That’s not to say that suggesting a mindfulness practice is always wrong in these situations! Yet we should use mindfulness ourselves so that we can better judge whether it’s the right time to discuss solutions.
We should also keep in mind that mindfulness isn’t a cure-all, and that not everyone will find the same benefits in the practice as we do. And that’s okay. If we feel offended or frustrated by their lack of interest, this may be something for us to meditate on and explore within ourselves.
Perhaps the very best way to introduce the concept of mindfulness to others is simply to embody it. By focussing on and deepening our own practice, rather than telling everyone else to start theirs, we will naturally become better listeners, more empathic and compassionate, and more emotionally spacious to deal with other people’s problems. This way, mindfulness can arise in conversations organically, without feeling forced or like we’re trying to fix things.